Everything about Michael Wardian and his performance in Saturday’s sixth National Marathon was normal. The 36-year-old Arlington resident was in his usual post-race spot outside RFK Stadium: in the winners’ circle, with a giant check in hand. As he described what it was like to win this event for the fifth time in six years, his 4-year-old son Pierce circled at his feet and his 2-year-old son Grant dangled from his neck.
Wardian is a local product (Oakton High) and former college athlete (lacrosse at Michigan State) and works as an international shipping broker at a Georgetown company.
When it comes to running, however, Wardian is far from normal. He’s a pavement-pounding fiend with plans to run 17 marathons this year — “about the same as last year,” he said — and eight or nine ultramarathons. And with a first-place time of 2:23:01, Wardian proved again that he is the king of Saturday’s event.
“I’m never sad to win,” he said. “It never gets boring and I never take it for granted. So every time is special and this race was no different.”
In his trademark style, Wardian, sporting shoulder-length hair under a backwards hat, took the lead early on the chilly March morning and held it commandingly throughout. Well-known in local running circles, Wardian was cheered on at times with roars of “Go Mike!” He said he saw his parents around Mile 8 and friends from his son’s tee-ball team later on.
Though he was pleased with his effort, Wardian admits his pace was a little slower than he had hoped. His goal was to hit 2 hours and 19 minutes, the Olympic trial qualifying time, before two big upcoming runs. In a month he will be in South Africa to run a more grueling 56-kilometer race, followed by an 89-kilometer ultramarathon a month later.
“I was hoping to get my Olympic qualifying time before that,” he said. “So I’ll just have to work on it in this summer.”
Nadezda Tuptova, 35, claimed first place in the women’s division with a personal-best of 2:50:53, her first marathon win in nearly two years. The Russia native, who trains and lives there, said she came to the United States for a three-month racing stint, which included marathons in Jacksonville and Albany three weeks ago.
“My goal was to win,” Tuptova said through an interpreter. “I was running just to win, not to get a time.”
Renee High, 29, of Virginia Beach, came in second with a time of 2:53:05, and 35-year-old Beth Woodward of Orrville, Ohio, finished third in 3:01:26.
Running in his first National Marathon, Greg Wieczorek of Halifax, Canada, finished second in 2:28:08, ahead of the third-place finisher, Wilson Komen of the District. Komen, 33, finished in 2:31.
By the time Wieczorek surged into second place around Mile 23, Wardian was far out of sight.
“I’ve read all about him,” Wieczorek said. “To come second to Mike is a real honor. I wish I could have seen him after the start. But he’s just in a league of his own.”
Gurmessa Mergessa, 31, of the District, claimed the men’s half-marathon crown with a time of 1:07:16. Christine Ramsey, 28 of Baltimore, won the women’s division in 1:17:01.